Sunday, October 26, 2014

P. F. Sloan Appearance in Pasadena, California Made Classic Rock History

If you were fortunate enough to be in the Community Room of the South Pasadena Library on Oct. 16, 2014, then you thought you were there for just “Music and Author Night,” where you’d enjoy hearing some sterling songs and poignant memories of one of rock music’s most talented songwriters ever to pick up a pen and create magic. That would have been a phenomenal night in and of itself, but, in true P. F. Sloan style, the man who wrote “Secret Agent Man,” had a few surprises in store for the guests.

As Steve Feinberg, co-author of "What’s Exactly the Matter with Me?" the P. F. Sloan autobiography, shared, “the show was extraordinary.”

As is always the case with events at the iconic South Pasadena Library, especially music in their community room, advance publicity was solid.

Turns out the surprises included the guest appearances of two of Sloan’s friends, in a once-in-a-lifetime evening of music. Creed Bratton, formerly of The Grass Roots and actor in the television show, “The Office,” joined Sloan for a few songs. Of course, today’s television generation only may know Bratton for his recent role on “The Office,” but classic rock fans in general, and Grass Roots fans specifically, know Bratton as part of the original Grass Roots from 1967-1969.

Then to the delight and surprise of the audience, Warren Entner was introduced to the SRO crowd in the South Pasadena Library, as one of Sloan’s special (surprise) guests. Of course, you don’t go to visit Phil without bringing a guitar, but when Warren joined Phil and Creed onstage, it was more than a matter of making music and remembering when. In fact, the trio made Grass Roots history.

Remember, with the first hit records of the Grass Roots, there were no Grass Roots. They were the name made up to place-save for the creative team of P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri, making music on the Dunhill Label with their songs. With Sloan’s innate understanding of what makes a hit record, plus his on-target ear for arrangements making this fictional band soar up the charts, there was an almost immediate demand for the band.

Finally when people wanted to see some “real” Roots, well, you can read for yourself “What’s Exactly the Matter with Me” and learn the exact story of how the Grass Roots were created but just remember that Warren was an original GT band member, on guitar from 1967-1974. You heard him singing on “Temptation Eyes,” “Midnight Confessions,” “Bella Linda,” “Sooner or Later,” and more.

Let’s face it: the best part of the iconic song, “Let’s Live for Today” is when Warren counts in the “1, 2, 3, 4” and then you as the Grass Roots fan you are, know to join in on “sha la la la la la, live for to-daayyy.” The song was co-written by David Shapiro, Ivan Mogul, and Michael Julien, was recorded first by the British group, The Rokes in 1966. But when Sloan found it perfect for the Grass Roots, and produced it (together with Steve Barri) for the Grass Roots, the single was released on Dunhill on May 13, 1967 and made it to #8 on the Billboard charts. But, since it sold over 2,000,000 copies as the record charts show, it was a gold record for all concerned.

So, that innocuous fall evening in Pasadena, once and for all there were three “real” Grass Roots together again for the first time in over 45 years. How surreal that experience was, especially for Feinberg, who is the only person besides Phil Sloan who knew what horrific things had occurred to Sloan at the hand of former record label associates whose business practices and ethics were….well, you have to read the book to believe it.

Feinberg shared, “I stood in the door to the stage when Warren counted and was thrilled to witness something that was so iconic in my life.” There were so many Interesting people in the crowd. Feinberg said, among those present were “John York of the Byrds, Donna Loren, Stevie Kalinich, Tom Waldeman. Jared Cargman, an original member of The Fantastic Baggys--a capacity crowd of two hundred plus.” Following the concert, Phil took questions for an hour and Feinberg said, “Nobody left their seats. He was funny and eloquent” at the same time.

Music photographer Joaquin Montalvan was also present for the special event, and he graciously shared his photos for readers to enjoy. Asked about what he thought of the once-in-a-lifetime reunion concert, Montalvan said, “It was a great show, completely packed house, and P.F. got a standing ovation after "Eve of Destruction." He continued, “The audience also really responded to Warren Entner being up there, not having played in 40 years, particularly when he did his famous 1, 2, 3, 4, on "Live for Today."

Virtually every diehard Grass Roots fan and devotee lists “Live for Today” among their top 3 Grass Roots songs, so many of them having been co-written, produced or influenced by Phil Sloan. That and virtually every other Grass Roots hits can trace their lineage back to the creative mind of Phil Sloan and, it goes without saying each time, the creative contributions of the legendary Steve Barri. Barri, however, didn’t go through what Phil did, so it was like apples and oranges.

To be clear, at no time and in no place, stated or print, did the trio of musicians together, or the individual musicians separately, ever call themselves the Grass Roots, to the audience or anyone else. But, classic rock purists knew that that is exactly who had reunited for one unforgettable evening.

All that, with absolutely no disrespect to the band that tours the country as the Grass Roots (owned by Nancy Grill), formerly known as The Grass Roots starring Rob Grill, who have been touring for now over three years after Rob’s passing. So many people love the music of the Grass Roots that they’re even booked on the Happy Together Tour for 2015. Fans love the music created by and the band invented by P. F. Sloan. The group who tours includes lead singer/bassist Mark Dawson, guitarist/vocalist Dusty Hanvey, keyboard/vocalist Larry Nelson and drummer Joe Doherty. Hanvey, Nelson and Doherty were with Rob Grill for over 20 years at least. It’s also well known that Rob Grill hand-picked Dawson (who has his own bands, including the Kings of Snack and Simulcast, as well as singing with Gladys Justiniano as a duo, i.e., he’s the hardest working man in show biz).

Phil Sloan, however, is finally, after decades of being forcibly ignored so egos and fat profits could go on and on for others, being recognized for the joy he brought to music lovers around the world. It’s great that he is continuing to make selected appearances as it gives classic rock fans a chance to hear his story and shake his hand and say thanks. That’s a long overdue and important gift back to Phil.

Warren Entner (L) and Creed Bratton (R) stand behind P. F. Sloan at an impromptu reunion at the South Pasadena Public Library, when Sloan appeared to discuss his biography (co-written with S. E. Feinberg). He'd invited some friends to join him for a few songs. History was made that night, albeit it by serendipity.

Classic rock fans love P. F. Sloan, and it’s about time he hears from each and every one. Read “What’s Exactly the Matter with Me?” and find out what the music business was really like, back in the day. The revelations will astound you.

[Editor's note: Story was published originally at: At the time of this story, then, P. F. Sloan was indeed very much alive and well. [Sadly, we lost Phil on November 15, 2015.] He filled the South Pasadena library on October 16, 2014. Prior to that, Sloan managed to bring such a crowd into a Malibu bookstore that they sold out of every single copy of his book. Before that, Mike Somavilla brought him to Harold Adler’s Art House Gallery and Cultural Center in Berkeley and filled every inch of available space, including having to throw cushion pillows down on the floor to accommodate the crowd. You can still be among friends on Facebook's Only P.F. Sloan Group. The page administrators are really great and will welcome you.]

As another site of interest, visit the web page re Phil's memoirs and there you can read two sample chapters . You'll want to buy the book! To make that easier, then, to go to amazon directly: Click here to purchase.

Many thanks are due to S. E. Feinberg (Sloan's co-author) and Steve Fjeldsted, Director of Library, Arts, and Culture at the South Pasadena Public Library, for all the work behind the scenes that made such an unforgettable night a reality.

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